Choosing an RN Program in Montana
Montana professional nursing programs are offered at the bachelor’s and associate’s levels. Nursing is a somewhat unusual profession in that there is higher demand for individuals with higher training. While the BSN provides greater opportunity, some ADN programs do post excellent placement rates.
The associate program of course takes a shorter time period, but (once prerequisites are figured in) in it is more than a “two-year degree”.
Montana nursing students will find a lot of opportunities to continue their education from lower levels to higher ones. Some programs are even set up in such a way that a student completes LPN training before RN training. (Whether a person actually practices as an RN is up to them.)
There are plenty of programs offering ADN to BSN completion. Students may also consider articulation agreements between schools – specific agreements that make it easier for a student who earns an associate in nursing at one university to continue on for a baccalaureate at another.
NCLEX Pass Rates in Montana
The NCLEX-RN examination is a licensing requirement. First time pass rates are pass rates for those attempting the examination for the first time. They are recognized as one indicator of a quality program. They also reflect the school’s admission policies. Those that are very competitive draw students who already have very high academic skills.
The Montana Board has published the most recent five years of pass rate data (http://bsd.dli.mt.gov/license/bsd_boards/nur_board/board_page.asp).
The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) are nationally recognized accrediting agencies; only programs at the baccalaureate level and higher are eligible for CCNE accreditation.
Nursing accreditation can be particularly important for those who plan on pursuing higher degrees later. Graduate nursing programs frequently limit admissions to graduates of accredited programs; baccalaureate programs are less likely to require that nursing students hold degrees from accredited programs – but it sometimes happens. The accreditation still provides extra validation of program quality.
Nursing programs frequently include laboratory experiences with high-tech simulations. Some will of course have better facilities than others – technology is frequently touted in literature.
Another draw can be the human element. This can mean different things for different people. Montana’s Salish Kootenai College self identifies as the national leader in graduating Native American RNs. Many schools have active student organizations and extracurricular or service opportunities.
The Admission Process
Admission policies are another important consideration – facilities have limited space. Point systems are often utilized. There is generally a pre-admission test; grades in prerequisite courses are generally considered. However, schools may consider other qualifications like health care experience. An interview may be required.
Since the process is different from school to school, it’s a good idea to research options at an early stage.
Cost Considerations for Nursing Students in MT
While it is possible to get a community college nursing education for under $15,000, most RN programs cost significantly more.
Fortunately, nursing students are often eligible for more than just the standard financial aid like need-based Pell Grants. Nursing departments can point students toward institutional and private scholarship competitions. Students who are willing to make a service commitment may compete for loan scholarships through the Health Resources & Services Administration (HSRA).
Individual schools may note many sources of financial support, for example, that some students are financing their nursing education through Americorps service.
Successful RNs generally earn good wages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites $59,920 as the average salary for Montana RNs (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm). Schools may provide information about local starting wages. Montana Tech, for example, cites starting wages in the mid-40,000’s (https://www.mtech.edu/academics/clsps/nursing).
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